Is the province interfering in or ensuring compliance with municipal codes of conduct?

It will be interesting to gauge the response at city hall

after the province announced yesterday (Friday) it is launching consultations with the municipal sector to strengthen accountability for council members.
To quote the release from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “The province wants to ensure that councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace and carry out their duties as elected officials in an ethical and responsible manner.”

Minister Steve Clark added, “We want to gather input to ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to hold council members accountable for any unacceptable behaviour.”
He went on to note, “It’s critical that everyone feels safe and respected in the workplace, and that they know there are accountability measures in place for members who violate codes of conduct.”
It was two years ago that an unnamed member of council was the subject of a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an individual of the opposite sex removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.

In his written report, Mark McDonald, the city’s contracted integrity commissioner noted: “there were conflicting versions of what took place, although the councillor admitted to removing the cell phone from a hip pocket.”

McDonald concluded, “There is no doubt that this encounter has caused emotional stress and violates council’s Code of Conduct.”
He advised council to adopt a finding that an article of the Code of Conduct was contravened and all members of council – not just the respondent – undertake sensitivity training.
A mere slap on the wrist considering council had the option of going beyond McDonald’s recommendations and could have – under its Code of Conduct – suspended the councillor or withheld salary.
It did neither.
Meantime, have all members undertaken this training? Was there a follow-up report?
It is our understanding the victim in this case may have pursued legal options.

“We are committed to upholding our shared values of respect, equity, equality and fairness for all people in Ontario. These consultations are to help us move that commitment forward in municipal governments so that everyone feels safe.”

So, involvement from a higher level of government could be an indication behaviour like the above – or far more serious – is a growing concern.
Jill Dunlop, the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues will be leading the consultations involving members of municipal councils and staff along with municipal associations.
She notes, “Our government has been absolutely clear that we will not tolerate workplace harassment or discrimination of any kind.
“We are committed to upholding our shared values of respect, equity, equality and fairness for all people in Ontario. These consultations are to help us move that commitment forward in municipal governments so that everyone feels safe.”
The city has a checkered history of harassing behaviour in the workplace and you can read more in the related posts noted below.
If you have experienced or been the victim of such behaviour feel free to contact this corner in the strictest confidence.
Going back to 2003 several female employees did just that with allegations of sexual harassment.
Related posts:
The city is about to take us all for a ride.
A free ride, that is.
The city rolls out its revitalized transit operation on March 29 and for the next month, hop aboard the Railway City Transit buses at no cost.
As Mayor Joe Preston made it clear on numerous occasions, “I’m excited.”Railway City Transit logo

Key features of the service include extended hours Monday through Friday with the system operating to 9:45 p.m.
Same on Saturday.
Enjoy a Sunday service running all day from 9:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
There will be expanded coverage in the industrial area and more frequent service along Talbot Street.
And then there’s the introduction of Demand Responsive Transit for on-demand service to cover extended hours.
City staff is undertaking final testing of the cellphone app-based booking and payment system for on-demand and paratransit operations known as RCT OnDemand.
Once testing is completed it will be available in app stores before March 29 to allow for download and sign up.
And there is more: new bus shelters and passenger amenities including upgrades to the transit hubs at the SmartCentre and Elgin Centre featuring larger shelters and seating areas.
And, new stop locations which not all residents appreciate and may result in a longer walk to catch a bus.
A new pamphlet is now available outlining the newly branded service. You can pick one up aboard any bus, at city hall, at the downtown transit centre and ticket sellers.
More information can be found at
And this is just the beginning. Down the road we’ll be getting state-of-the-art electric buses as the greening of St. Thomas moves into higher gear.
Related posts:
Time to take a deeper dive into last week’s item on salary disclosure at city hall. In particular comparing the police and fire service as they traditionally make up the bulk of the membership in the so-called Sunshine Club.
Last year, 54 members of the St. Thomas Police Service earned more than $100,000 while 49 members of the St. Thomas Fire Department fall into that bracket.
Of note, two members of the police service are seconded to the Ontario Police College near Aylmer at this time and so their salaries are paid by the province and there is no financial impact on St. Thomas ratepayers.
Now, the average wage of a first-class constable is $108,908 versus $119,817 for a first-class firefighter. All of these figures are from the 2020 public sector salary disclosure document.
Add up their total salaries at each service and it comes to $3.7 million for 34 first-class constables and $3.8 million for 32 first-class firefighters.
Delving deeper into the payrolls, the average salary of a staff sergeant/sergeant is $126,420 while a captain/platoon chief averages $161,909.
There are 13 such positions at the police service (with two seconded to the OPC) for a total salary of $1.6 million.
On the fire service side, we’re looking at 11 positions for a total of almost $1.8 million.
The chief training officer on the police side earns $114,579 versus $133,831 for the chief training officer in the fire service.
The total salary for all of the above positions comes to $5,460,943 for the police service and $5,748,989 for the fire department for a difference of $288,046.
The department total for the police service comes to $6,166,026 in salaries as compared to $6,298,057 for the fire department, a difference of $132,030.
That would include Police Chief Chris Herridge’s salary of $202,472 and Fire Chief Bob Davidson’s salary of $151,582.
As a further comparison, the 35 city hall employees earning over $100,000 have a combined salary impact of $4,358,883.
Time to cool down the calculator but these numerical nuances do result in a little different perspective to go with last week’s item.
Related post:
Looks like pet licensing in St. Thomas is about to go the way of the flightless dodo bird.
At last Monday’s (March 1) council meeting, members were unanimous in giving the green light to begin a public engagement process aimed at removing the requirement for cat and dog tags and a review of the fee structure for impoundment and adoption.
The report to council advised the fees for those two services “are grossly undervalued in comparison to our neighbouring municipalities and we are using pet tag revenues to subsidize our services.”Animal Services

Furthermore, “If adoption and pound fees are adjusted to appropriate levels, there will be no operating budget impact by removing the tag revenue.
“By allowing residents to handle their own pet identification it will lower the private costs as well. This may result in a small increase in private pet store revenue.”
Coun. Joan Rymal noted, “I certainly agree with a different process, given the number of animals we have in the city and the amount of money we’re getting back.”
As to whether the city has had discussions with the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society on partnership possibilities Justin Lawrence, director of environmental services, indicated there have been discussions but no arrangements evolved out of those talks.
“We’re operating on our own system,” noted Lawrence, “nothing came out of that.”
Coun. Mark Tinlin cut right to the nitty-gritty.
“I couldn’t agree more with the elimination of the excessive bureaucracy of pet identification.”
Related post:
A suggestion from reader Greg Decock on the dispersal of sharps in the event of a liability issue.
“Those handing out needles need to have all sharps they hand out branded with the organization’s name, be it SWPH, The Nameless, or whoever. That way if someone got stuck with an improperly disposed of sharp, there would be liability involved.”

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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